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US jobs figures

November 6, 2015

New US payrolls data show the unemployment rate holding steady in October, even as some new jobs have been added. Over the past 12 months, the unemployment rate has gone down slightly.

USA Wirtschaft Bauarbeiter in New York
Image: Getty Images

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics released its October payroll data on Friday, revealing that total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 271,000 in October. The unemployment rate was essentially unchanged at 5.0 percent. Job gains were seen in professional and business services, health care, retail, food and drink services, and construction.

The number of registered unemployed held steady in October compared to September, remaining at 7.9 million. The unemployment rate was down by 0.7 percent compared to October a year ago, and the number of registered unemployed persons was down by 1.1 million.

The number of long-term unemployed - those jobless for 27 weeks or more - was unchanged at 2.1 million in October, and has changed little since June. The long-term unemployed accounted for 27 percent of the registered unemployed in October.

Labor market statistics need to be studied carefully to avoid being bamboozled with excessively optimistic presentations of data - whether they're provided by US or by German employment statistics agencies. Definitions of "unemployed" in particular should be read with an eye to the fine print. For example, people who have given up looking for work altogether and who are not drawing unemployment benefits are not considered "unemployed."

A perhaps more meaningful number is the labor force participation rate. That was unchanged at 62.4 percent of the adult population in October. The employment-population ratio, which covers all age groups, was at 59.3 percent; it has shown little movement over the past year.

Part-time workers

Some people work at part-time jobs even though they would prefer to be working full-time. These underemployed people numbered 5.8 million in October, down by 269,000 from September. Over the past 12 months, the number of involuntarily part-time workers declined by 1.2 million.

Fun fact: Food services and drinking-places added 42,000 jobs in October. Over the year, the sector has added 368,000 jobs.

nz/hg (Reuters, dpa)